What is the value of global health electives during medical school?

Med Teach. 2013;35(3):209-18. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.731107. Epub 2012 Oct 26.


Purpose: To determine whether global health (GH) electives enhanced the development of medical students and to examine the influence on host communities.

Methods: A retrospective survey study was conducted with Queen's University undergraduate medical students who had participated in a GH elective. Participants rated the influence of their elective on the aspects of their professional and personal development and their perceived community impact on a scale of 0-5.

Results: The highest rated statements focused on the students' personal development and whether the elective provided a valuable learning experience (4.39 and 4.07, respectively). Students also reported a heightened level of awareness of social determinants of health (mean rating of 3.98). The statements with the lowest mean ratings involved students' perceptions of their impact on the communities. Overall, 73.5% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that GH electives are valuable to medical education.

Conclusion: GH electives benefit the professional and personal development of medical students. Although students gain significantly from their experience, they are unable to assess the impact of their work on the community. Thus, there is a need to assess the effect from both the perspective of the students and of the community members.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Female
  • Foreign Medical Graduates*
  • Global Health / education*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Schools, Medical*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult